Monday, July 25, 2016

War of the Roses: Bloodline by Conn Iggulden

Wars of the Roses: Bloodline.  Conn Iggulden. Penguin Group (USA). July 2016. 432 pp. hbk. ISBN #: 9780399165382.

In 1461 three men’s heads are mounted on Micklegate Bar’s entry to York Castle: Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury; Richard, Duke of York; and Edmund, the son of Richard, Duke of York.  Queen Margaret of Anjou and her husband, the weak and mentally challenged King Henry VI, have no idea what these murders have elicited from within the hearts and minds of the York clan. 

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and his brothers mourn the loss of their father by vowing unceasing vengeance on the Lancaster enemy.  Edward of March, son of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, declares himself King and uses his grief to forge a fierce, dauntingly powerful presence in battle and an equal vow to wipe out the Lancaster forces.

This third novel in this memorable series is chiefly characterized by two major battles and strategies of the York and Lancaster contenders to grasp and hold the Crown of England. While characterization is stereotypical, the plots of both sides is superbly presented and engaging (even if the reader is familiar with the course of English history in this time period).

At the first battle of St. Albans, one can hardly believe that a change in strategy completely changes the tide of victory, a choice brought about by brutal winter weather.  The second battle at Townton is as vividly depicted with its own breathtaking surprises.  The realism of these battles is precisely conveyed by Iggulden in a way that makes the reader practically hold one’s breath from the tension and suspense, from the exhaustion and ferocious killing cycles that seem to go on and on endlessly until victory is won by Edward’s Yorkist troops.

In between these battles, one gradually gets entranced by Warwick’s growing jealousy and anger as Edward credits Warwick as “Kingmaker” but not as the power behind the throne.  Edward takes a wife, Elizabeth Woodville, whose family become contenders who would rid the country of Warwick and his family, an especially evil campaign for power. 

Conn Iggulden has again created a spellbinding, intriguing novel about these two rival families who changed the course of English history!  Stunning historical fiction by a seasoned, skilled writer that is highly recommended!

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